The current PPE guidance ‘falls short’ of protecting staff and patients, the UK Health Security Agency has been told.
The Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK) warned the UKHSA, which manages the PPE guidance, that the current recommendations leave employers unsure how to fulfil their responsibilities to staff.
It said that the current guidance makes an ‘artificial distinction’ between normal patient care and ‘aerosol generating procedures’.
The UKHSA defines these procedures as those that ‘can result in the release of airborne particles (aerosols) from the respiratory tract when treating someone’.
However, the DAUK argued: ‘We now know that breathing is sufficient to generate airborne coronavirus capable of infecting others who are breathing the same air.’
It added that with UK Omicron rates doubling ‘roughly every two days we must treat every patient we see as being a potential carrier of Covid’.
It called on the UKHSA to greenlight an ‘urgent review’, to facilitate ‘full airborne protection for all staff’ in clinical areas.
FFP3 masks for all staff
The DAUK argued that all staff working indoors where exhaled air from patients is circulating should wear FFP3 masks as a matter of necessity.
Currently, healthcare professionals are work in masks that ‘would not meet the standards for the general public to wear on the bus in other European countries’.
It is also receiving reports that some staff are being asked to remove their FFP3 masks and instead are being asked to wear ‘unprotective’ surgical masks instead, it added.
Protecting NHS staff is of the ‘utmost importance’ given the risk that Omicron infections may overwhelm the health service’s capacity.
‘We need to keep staff in good health and fully functioning at work. Addressing this issue is long overdue and I would be grateful if you could give it your urgent attention,’ it said.
This comes days after BMA analysis indicated t e NHS in England could be looking at almost 50,000 staff absences over Christmas if the Government fails to introduce further restrictions.
Practices have ben also been advised to consider postponing non-essential procedures to better manage their workload as the accelerated booster campaign continues.